Shri Parmanand Research Institute
Srinagar, Kashmir


Mankha and "Sri Kanthacaritam"

by Dr. Kaushalya Wali

Mankha's name is among the foremost poets of Kashmir. His other names are Mankhaka or Mankhuka. His birthplace is Kashmir. His father's name is Visvavarta whose name is mentioned with great respect in 'Srikanthacaritam.' Mankha's brother was Alankara. According to Kalhana Alankara was a poet and a minister in the time of the kings Sussala and Jayasinha of Kashmir. Mankha himself has called him Lankana or Lankaka in his work. According to Dr. Stein- "Mankha regards his brother deeply well-versed in grammar and mentions his famous name as Lankaka. Mankha's grandfather is known as Manmatha. Mankha's three brothers were Srngara, Bhanga and Alankara. Mankha was the youngest of all. He and his two elder brothers were not only scholars but were on high posts in the administration of Kashmir. For instance Srngara helped the king Sussala in a war against Harsadeva. It is being said that as a result of this victory on account of defeating Harsadeva, he was given the post of Brhattantrapati. Alankara was, a grammarian and according to Kalhana was a minister or a Sandhivigrahika. Mankha also held a high post-probably either Pargana or Governor. At the end of every canto of his work 'Srikanthacarita', he calls himself Raja naka Mahakaviraja Mankha. Ruyyaka was his teacher, to whom he shows great reverence in his own work. In the world of Sanskrit literature, Mankha is among those rare poets who give details in his writing about himself and his dynasty.

We have no difficulty in deciding the time of Mankha. Mankha lived in Kashmir in the kingdom of King Sussala and Jayasinha. The time of the king Jayasinha is 1127 to 1159 A.D. According to Dr. Buhler, Srikanthacarita was composed by Mankha between 1135 to 1145 A. D. According to Kalhana, the then king of Kashmir appointed Mankha as ambassador. On the basis of these facts Mankha's time may be determined as 12th century A. D. Mankha has mentioned the name of Rajasekhara and Bilhana in his work and declared them poets of repute. The above - mentioned date is supported by this reference.

Mankha's work is known as "Srikanthacaritam". This mahakavya is divided into twenty five cantos. Mankha has composed this work while keeping in view the characteristics of Mahakavya. This work is a proof to the fact that the poet is having command on Sanskrit language and has the full capacity to write the mahakavya which was composed on the occasion of the destruction of Tripurasura by Siva. The beautiful descriptions we come across in 'Srikanthacaritam' the commencement of various seasons of natural climate, the scene of sun-rise and sun-set.

The poet gives in detail in the 3rd canto as to what made, him to write this mahakavya. In the twenty fifth canto, the poetgives the full details of his circumstances. According to the poet, he gave his work to the highest scholars and administrators for their comments. This meeting of the scholars took place in the house of his brother Alankara. The meeting was attended by thirty members

The poet does not make us familiar only with the names of scholars but tells us the branch of knowledge in which each scholar was an expert. This information is of great importance from the viewpoint of the details supplied to us about the then reputed scholars. The information regarding the scholars is as under:

1. The poet Ananda by name was well-vesed in Nyaya philosophy.
2. Sambhur's son Ananda was a Vaidya.
3. Alakadatta's disciple "Kalyana" by name was expert in Sahitya-sastra.
4. Garga was an expert in Sahitya.
5. Govinda had specialized in Sahitya.
6. Janakaraja was in know of grammar and Vedas.
7. Jalhana knew Sahitya.
8. Mimamsa Sastra was the special field of Jinduka.
9. Trailokya was the specialist in Mimamsa.
10. Nandana knew Vedanta.
Naga knew grammar and Alankara. Patu was a specialist in Sahityasastra. Padmaraja, was well-versed in Sahitya. Prakata knew Vedanta. Bhudda specialised in Sahitya,

Mandana was the knower of all the branches of knowledge. He was the son of Srigarbha. Yogaraja knew Sahitya. Ramyadeva was well versed in Veda. Ruyyaka knew Alankara-sastras. Laksamideva was good at Vedas. Lostadeva knew Sahitya. Vageeswara was a knower of Sahitya. Srigarbha's son Srikantha was specialist in Sahitya. Srigarbha had depth in Sahitya. Sriguna was in know of Mimamsa. Srivatsa specialised in Sahitya. Sastha's special field was Sahitya.

Besides these twenty seven scholars, there were three more personalities in the meeting who were not scholars but were worthy of honour. Out of these three, two were ambassadors :- (1) The ambassador sent by the king Aparaditya of Konkana was called Tejakantha (2) The ambassador sent by the king Govindacandra of Kannauja was called Suhala. The third person was known by the name of Damodara. All these details tell us the importance of the meeting. The meeting was attended by scholars and critics. These critics were experts in different branches of knowledge and men of repute. It was for the first time that the poetry of Kashmir was submitted for comments to the contemporary critics.

The criticism of poetry by the schlolars draws our attention to to the fact that the practice of the social and scholarly debate and exchange of ideas was in vogue in Kashmir of Manka's time. Besides we are equipped with valuable and detailed historical descriptions. First of all a lot of help is rendered to us in determine the date of several poets and scholars. For instance we are helped in determining the time of Ruyyaka. Mankha's owntime is determined also. We become familiar with the names of two ambassadors. The dated inscription of the kings of Konkana and Kannauja are available. Aparaditya's time can be between 1185 to 1186 A.D. and Govindacandra's time can be between 1120 to 1144 A.D. The presence of ambassadors in Kashmir is a proof of this fact that Kashmir had friendly political relations with other provinces. We also infer that Aparaditya's reign continued for a long time. Aparaditya happens to be the commentator of Yajnavalkya Smrti which has an important place in law books.

Srikanthacaritam starts with Mangalacarana in praise of Siva. In the second canto the poet has described the general qualities of poets. Mankha has emphasised the intellectual arguments. There is a hint to the point as to what type of intellectual dialogues are essential for the development of the tendency of poetry."

In the third carto, the poet gives us an idea of life in Kashmir during his time. For instance the description of the firepot is most fascinating."

Mankha disapproves the tendency of his contemporary poets to beautify their poetry with Alankaras. He emphatically declares about his work that was written by him to please Srikantha alone and not to flatter anyone. He seems to be all against court-poetry, Mankha welcomes the destruction of Tripurasura by Siva in "Srikanthacaritam."

Every one of us desires to have a sympathetic and unprejudiced study of the complete true poetry. Mankha supports this view. His own work seems to be full of the qualities that a mahakavya should have. Hence he was immensely praised by his teacher Ruyyaka. At the end of his work, Mankha tells his readers that the team of scholars listened to his work with great attention and with a critical eye and afterwards showed their reaction. Mankha's poetry is lauded by all the scholars uptil now.

At the very outset of his work, Mankha has mentioned "Mankhakosa". The writer of this kosa in Sanskrit is Mankha himself. But this Kosa is not available now. This kosa seems to be popular in Kashmir for a pretty long time.

Mankha's one more work is "Srikantha-sarvasva". Its example is found in "Alankarasarvasva".

While giving the example of "Punaruktavadabhasa," Srikanthastava" is referred to. On Auyyaka's "Alankara-sarvasva" is written a commentary by Mankha, that also is called "Alankara-sarvasva." Besides, Mankha himself has written some Alankarasutras which are referred to by one of his students "Samudra-bandh." Samudra-bandha has written a commentary on "Alamkarasarvasva" and praised the king Ravivarma of Kolamba.

Jonaraja is the commentator of "Srikanthacaritam". He was contemporary of Zain-ul-abudin and writer of second Rajatarangini. He has writen a commentary on Bharavi's Kiratanjuniya and several other books.

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